Congestion Relief: It’s About Your Health

chokedup.jpg

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial on transportation policy makes a strong case for linking concerns about traffic congestion to concerns about health. It’s worth looking at the full text of All Choked Up, the report from Environmental Defense that the paper references when arguing that in order to achieve his goal of a sustainable city,

The mayor will have to deal aggressively with a vexing problem, traffic congestion. If that piece of the plan falls short, the rest of Mr. Bloomberg’s vision won’t much matter. In just a couple of decades, New York is expected to add nearly a million more people. To have any hope of keeping people moving, the city will need to take real and substantial action to unclog its roads – including some form of congestion fee and other disincentives to driving on the busiest streets.

Besides helping business and boosting the general quality of life, congestion relief would also produce cleaner air, to the enormous benefit of public health, a fact that has so far mostly been missed in the debate over congestion pricing. But a newly released report from Environmental Defense, a nonpartisan group, is likely to give these issues more prominence.

The report shows that vehicle emissions – especially dangerous diesel soot – can pollute the air as far as 1,500 feet from the source. In New York City, that means it’s hard to escape them, which is troubling in a city with high asthma rates. And not just asthma but lung problems, as well as heart disease, have been linked to vehicle emissions, which are also thought to contribute to strokes and some kinds of cancers.

That is all worth considering as Mr. Bloomberg’s team tries to balance good policy with what is politically achievable.

Is it too much to hope that traffic can someday soon be seen as a public health issue? Don’t forget that not long ago, banning smoking in bars would have seemed more political suicide than "politically achievable."

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Los Angeles has the worst congestion in the country with drivers sitting in traffic an average of 119 hours in 2017.

Traffic Study Comes Under Fire for Being Too ‘Pro-Car’

|
A landmark report that analyzes traffic congestion and its costs is coming under fire from transportation experts who say its methodology and findings are biased toward cars. The Urban Mobility Report “is a throwback to an earlier age” that “reflects an outdated transport planning paradigm which assumed that ‘transportation’ means automobile travel and ‘transportation problem’ […]

Old Gray Lady Gets on the Bandwagon

|
The New York Times came out advocating for progressive transportation policies in its Sunday City section editorial, saying that the departure of DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall presents "a great opportunity to take bold action on a vexing quality of life and health issue: traffic congestion." After giving Weinshall props for her actions on the Queens […]

The Parking Tax Benefit: A $7.3 Billion Subsidy for Traffic Congestion

|
The federal government spends billions of dollars a year on tax subsidies that make traffic congestion worse, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by TransitCenter and the Frontier Group. The culprit is the parking commuter tax benefit, which costs taxpayers $7.3 billion in foregone revenue each year, all while adding more than 800,000 cars to rush-hour […]

Former US DOT Bosses Call for Mileage Tax and Congestion Fees

|
Bottlenecks cripple our productivity, and transitioning among modes of transportation remains a convoluted and inefficient process nationwide, with some major cities being the few exceptions. Concerns about the environmental impact of these inefficiencies further highlight the need for systems that offer quick, interconnected and efficient means for transportation. The message today from two Republican-appointed former […]